Photography by Ali Redmond
Flavor-wise, a Grasshopper cocktail evokes those chocolate mints an old-school restaurants might present along with the dinner bill. We mean that in a positive way: Both are minty, chocolatey and an oh-so-sweet finish to a meal.
Although the Grasshopper is often served after dinner as a digestif, it can be enjoyed any time. Perfect for mint lovers and those attracted to festive, green cocktails, this vibrantly-hued sipper has a fascinating history. Here are all the details and how to make your own.
What Is a Grasshopper Cocktail?
The Grasshopper cocktail is a heavy, creamy and sweet cocktail, not dissimilar in spirit to the equally minty It’s a Wonderful Life cocktail and Boozy Shamrock Shake, not to mention the Wednesday Addams cocktail and Cadbury Egg cocktail. But like the chocolatey Brandy Alexander, the Grasshopper is actually an International Bartenders Association-recognized quaff steeped in tradition.
According to IBA, the official version is a simply-shaken cocktail containing crème de menthe, white crème de cacao and fresh cream, served in a chilled cocktail glass with an optional mint leaf garnish.
Where Did the Grasshopper Cocktail Come From?
The drink emerged at a time when Americans were opting for sweeter cocktails as opposed to stronger, whiskey-forward beverages. A version using equal parts crème de menthe and crème de cacao was mentioned in 1908’s World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them by “Cocktail Bill” Boothby, a San Francisco bartender. Boothby attributed the cocktail to Harry O’Brien of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The drink continued to regularly appear in global bartending guides through the 1930s, according to The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails. These versions belonged to a class of cocktails known as pousse café, which calls for layering ingredients rather than shaking them.
A shaken version that better resembles the modern-day Grasshopper is attributed to a New Orleans restaurant, Tujague’s Restaurant. The establishment claims to have served the first modern Grasshopper in 1918 in its original location’s bar. This version, which Tujague’s Restaurant credits to owner Philip Guichet, incorporates crème de menthe, white and dark crème de cacao, heavy whipping cream and brandy. The cocktail was allegedly crafted for a New York City cocktail competition, where it came in second place.
Of course, few classic cocktails’ histories are undisputed. According to The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails, there is no documented evidence proving the Tujague’s Restaurant story. The first proof in print of the modern Grasshopper was in the Boston Traveler in February 1950; writer Neal O’Hara references the drink as “popular in the Midwest.” From there, the drink started popping up in papers all over the country, with numerous writers and readers claiming different provenances.
Why Is It Called a Grasshopper?
According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the drink is “supposedly named for the jumpy effect it produced.” This interpretation was linked to a booze-free, temperance-era interpretation of the drink, which married lemon and orange juices with raw egg, sugar and ice. Later boozy versions in the 1960s attributed the name to the drink’s bright green hue.
Grasshopper Cocktail Ingredients
The drink began as equal parts crème de menthe and crème de cacao, and these continue to be non-negotiable ingredients in Grasshopper recipes. Crème de menthe is a bright green liqueur (though, a white version is available) with a very sweet, minty flavor. Crème de cacao is a chocolate liqueur with a deep cocoa flavor that comes in white or dark variations. Together, the two create the Peppermint Patty-like, minty and chocolatey flavor profile that is the hallmark of a Grasshopper.
Today, the blended Grasshopper is more common than layered versions. Modern bartenders tend to add a creamy element—think heavy cream—and additional flavorings like Cognac or blackberry brandy, which contribute additional depth of flavor.
How to Make a Grasshopper Cocktail
Though some recipes call for using a blender or shaved ice, our version simply calls for shaking the three ingredients vigorously in a cocktail shaker filled with ice before straining it over a chilled cocktail glass with an optional garnish.
Grasshopper Cocktail Recipe
Recipe by Jacy Topps
1 ounce green crème de menthe
1 ounce white crème de cacao
2 ounces heavy cream
Small piece of chocolate, for garnish*
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the green crème de menthe, white crème de cacao and heavy cream and shake vigorously until chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Grate chocolate over one side of the cocktail with a fine grater or microplane. Serve immediately.